Benedict XVI says Europe's Christian roots can inspire real human progress

The Christian roots of Europe can “inspire a new humanism,” said the Holy Father on Thursday evening at the concert given as a gift to him by the Orthodox Church of Russia. Europe, he said, needs to "return its soul not only to believers, but to all peoples of the continent."

The concert for Pope Benedict took place in the Vatican, and included works from 19th and 20th century Russian composers as well as a piece called "Song of the Ascension" written by Metropolitan Hilarion, the Russian Orthodox representative present at the concert.

The event was a gift from Patriarch Kirill I to Benedict XVI for his 83rd birthday and fifth anniversary as Pope, which were both observed in April.

The Holy Father welcomed the concert graciously, expressing his "profound gratitude" for the patriarch's gift and saying that music "anticipates and in some way creates encounter, dialogue and synergy between East and West, between tradition and modernity.”

John Paul II had an analogous vision of harmony and unity, Pope Benedict said, recalling his image of the “two lungs” of Europe. Pope John Paul II “hoped for a renewed awareness of the continent's profound and shared cultural and religious roots, without which today's Europe would be deprived of a soul or, at least, be the victim of a reduced and partial vision,” the Holy Father said.

Looking at the situation today, the Pope observed that contemporary culture, particularly in Europe, now “runs the risk of amnesia," of abandoning its "extraordinary heritage" which was "aroused and inspired" by the Christian faith which is its framework.

He remembered the role of cultural and artistic heritage in the Christian traditions in Europe, noting also that the faith has animated and inspired cultures and arts.

Even now "such roots are alive and fruitful in East and West," he pointed out.

These Christian roots, he said, "can in fact inspire a new humanism, a new season of authentic human progress in order to respond effectively to the numerous and sometimes crucial challenges that our Christian communities and societies have to face: first among them that of secularism, which not only impels us to ignore God and His designs, but ends up by denying the very dignity of human beings, in view of a society regulated only by selfish interests.”

“Let us again let Europe breathe with both lungs, restore a soul not only to believers, but to all peoples of the continent, promote trust and hope, rooting them in the millennial experience of the Christian faith!” exclaimed Benedict XVI.

In a message to the Pope on the occasion, Patriarch Kirill I called it “an event of great importance in the history of cultural exchanges between our Churches,” adding that music “gives us the possibility to communicate with our hearts.”

During a press conference on Wednesday, Kirill I's representative to the Holy See for the "Days of Russian Culture and Spirituality in the Vatican," Metropolitan Hilarion, told reporters that a much anticipated meeting between the leaders of the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches is "possible."

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